THE LEGEND OF OROMOCTO SPRING
IN ATTIWANDRON PARK—CRESSMAN’S WOODS [now Homer Watson Park]
By Walter Cunningham
Twenty-Fifth Annual Report of the Waterloo Historical Society 1937
In the misty past, Iroquois Indians hunted game in this region. There was a band that was notorious for their prowess in the chase, their Woodcraft, cunning, and cruelty to prisoners. The Upper Canada tribes were less bloodthirsty and feared the Iroquois. When a warning of their approach was received, runners were dispatched to other friendly camps summoning their warriors to assist them in repelling the dreaded marauders. One year, the Iroquois scoured the Niagara region. Since their spoils were meagre, they determined to cross the peninsula and pierce into the Lake Huron district, and on the way to pillage the camps of local Indians and take their scalps to decorate the ridgepoles of their wigwams. Of their coming, a scout alarmed the Attiwandaron village on the Grand River, below Brantford. But all the Attiwandaron warriors were absent on a hunting expedition. In their huts there were only old braves, squaws, boys and maidens. Although wearied by a three days’ run the scout volunteered to warn the absent Attiwandarons.
In the vicinity of Elmira, there was a friendly tribe camped for the summer and known as the Petuns. The greylocks in the village considered it their duty to warn the Petuns of the Iroquois menace. Whom could they send? The old men were too feeble; the squaws not able to undergo the journey; and the chits too inexperienced in forest lore. The prospect of the Petuns being notiﬁed of the danger dwindled as the names of possible runners were weighed and discarded. In the Attiwandaron settlement was a maiden named Nashwaaksis. Her comeliness and vigor had won the admiration of Oromocto, a Petun warrior, who had once visited the Attiwandaron village. To her, the memory of his smile was still green.
The music of his voice, telling her that the stars were jealous of her eyes; the birds of her songs; and the ﬂowers of her beauty, were treasured up by the maiden. Thinking of the warrior whom she loved and who, in her heart of hearts she knew, loved her, she offered herself as a messenger.
At daybreak, Nashwaaksis set forth on her long journey. Three days later she reached the Petun camp. There she was feted for her bravery in hazarding the dangerous trail alone. To recover from her exhaustion, she remained for a number of days. Oromocto was solicitous for her comfort and presented her with a pair of moccasins to replace those she had worn out while bringing in the warning. On the eleventh day, she and Oromocto left the Petun shelters for the Attiwandaron village, where it,was agreed that their marriage should be performed as soon as the hostile Iroquois had been driven out.
The ﬁrst day’s journey brought them to the bluff overlooking the Grand River at Doon. They decided to camp for the night in Cressman’s Woods, nearby; Nashwaaksis to sleep and Oromocto to guard her. In the deep foliage a nook was dound for the maiden, who, wearied with travel, soon fell asleep. After hearing her regular breathing, Oromocto resolved to scout the surrounding woods and ascertain if unseen foes lurked in them. Silently, like a panther, he slipped from tree to tree and knoll to knoll. Darkness crept over the woods. As dawn blotted out the stars and brightened the dome overhead, the Iroquois’ ﬁerce war-whoop rang through the woods. Oromocto dashed furiously along to the dell where his loved one reposed, only to behold a score of ﬁends leaping through the woods and intent on slaying him.
Hastily lifting Nashwaaksis, telling her to be brave, he thrust her deeper into the foliage. Then he turned and faced his enemies. The ﬁerceness with which he defended his betrothed may be judged by the fact that he dispatched seven of his foes before receiving his own death-blow. When Oromocto was slain, Nashwaaksis uttered a heart-broken scream, sprang from her hiding-place and fell dead across the body of her lover.
Two days later a party of Attiwandarons appeared on the tragic scene, searching for the maiden. Stoically, they beheld the bodies of the betrothed. They lifted the lifeless forms. As they raised them, a spring of water gushed from the spot. The Attiwandarons interpreted the appearance of the spring to mean:
“Clear as the character of beautiful Nashwaaksis; pure as the love of the twain, and cold as the heart of the Iroquois.”
The waters of the spring were said to contain ingredients that not only restore health but insure happiness. After the brave Petun, the active waters have been named: “Oromocto Spring.”
The tale of the two dead lovers first appeared in the local newspaper in 1917 to help fund raise for the effort to save Cressman’s woods. It was a story designed to raise awareness of the place, but was created in the mind of of a local resident. There is no basis of fact and it is just a wonderful piece of local fiction.